Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Patch Gold: Common Redstart.

There I was, wandering ever more slowly round Surlingham this evening lamenting the fact that Spring had been quiet here and wishing for a Yellow Wagtail or Whinchat. What I stumbled across has reminded me why patch birding can be so rewarding, and is also my best 'find' here. An unfamiliar song was heard, that I couldn't quite pin onto a Linnet. Eventually the bird in question was accidentally flushed, and the red tail left me in no doubt and the song fell into place. Upon landing, I was treated to super views of a stonking male Common Redstart! I enjoyed watching him for around 45 minutes, sometimes disappearing out of view but faithful to a particular hedgerow. I would imagine the chances of him staying are slim; Redstart are rare breeding birds in Norfolk, and a female would of course need to drop in. However, the habitat does provide breeding potential. With this in mind I will keep the exact location to myself incase the former does occur. That would be superb!
Elsewhere on the reserve, a Fox crossed my path no more than 4 feet in front of me, clearly it had no idea I was there, stock still. Reed Warblers are back at Church Marsh, so now I await Garden Warbler and possibly Lesser Whitethroat.

Over the weekend, I enjoyed views of a Kingfisher from inside the Water's Edge at Wood's End. Pub and bird well worth a look if you are in the area.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The week just passed in review

Sensing that this was a week in which to catch up with migration in action, Debs and I headed out to the patch on Monday 15th after work. A super evening. On arriving at the river bend opposite Wood's End, that call of the wild resonated from across the Yare. Somewhere, a patch first, a Curlew was calling! I didn't have to search for him, since the large Wader flew over our heads and over Church Marsh! Elsewhere on the reserve, a Barn Owl was surprisingly and worryingly the first recorded here this year (better numbers at Claxton) and the reel of a Grasshopper Warbler also alerted us to another year first. Walking back to the car, at dusk, 5 Common Pipistrelle's caught insects high at tree top level.

Rockland Broad on Wednesday night held little of note, bar courting Great-crested Grebes.

Fast-forward to Saturday 20th, and another visit to Church Marsh mid morning. A Whitethroat sang from across the river, NFY. Willow Warbler appeared to be outnumbering Chiffchaff now, or at least were louder! 2 male Marsh Harriers are now present on the reserve, but not at the same time. One bird has almost silver coloured wing patches, very distinctive. A Great Black-backed Gull heaading towards Postwick was shockingly a second 'patch tick' of the week. Many Peacock and Comma were on the wing along with a smattering of Brimstone.

That evening, I attended a Bat detector course at Santon Downham, run jointly by Suffolk Bat Group and the BCT. This was both an informative and enjoyable course, and I learnt a lot about rhythm, tone and how variable calls can be. We were able to put our new found knowledge into practise, and despite the cold temperatures we located Soprano Pips and Daubenton's. I return here later in May for a NBMP course which will help with my intended survey work this year.

Yesterday, I took in some of the wider South Yare patch, starting with Rockland Broad. The Broad has been pretty devoid of anything decent so far this year and I am relying on it to deliver some more difficult birds I am unlikely to pick up elsewhere. Very few Ducks seem to use The Broad, perhaps it is too deep for dabbling? Anyway, enough whinging because today I struck lucky with an Arctic Tern. the bird was distant at first, although clearly 'legless' with long tail feathers. There was some black at the tip of the bill which initially threw me, although it would seem some Arctics can display this feature we would usually associate with Common. So, a top patch tick and hopefully one of a few species of Tern I will see here this year.

Later in the afternoon, Debs and I enjoyed a stroll round Langley. A Peregrine was across the river (a 'stolen' patch tick) but the best find was a Grass Snake, lounging in the sun and proving photogenic.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Arrivals on the patch and on the coast.

A superb couple of days birding. Not only was I able to add a few much needed year ticks to the patch list, I also made it out to the coast and saw 3 very special birds.
Firstly, the patch. On Saturday, Willow Warbler was a new addition at Surlingham, max 2 birds present. There were 4 Green Sandpiper at Wood's End, and finally a Swallow flew down the Yare. I was pleased to catch up with a group of at least 20 Redwing, some in song, and a single Fieldfare. Over at Rockland, plenty of common Raptors were on the wing including a pair of Common Buzzard. 2 more Swallow flew away high to the east, and on the ground I encountered Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies and a Common Toad catching some rays.
Today, a similar picture as above but Blackcap and Sedge Warbler were new in at Church Marsh. No sign of the reported Garganey at Rockland, gutted.

News broke of 2 Long-eared Owls at Winterton, and having missed the Yarmouth bird I couldn't resist. Thankfully a kind gentleman had let birders use his garden as a vantage point, viewing down onto the dunes allowing great views of 2 snoozing Long-eareds. Magic! I stayed for a while, enjoying the birds and company. I then bumped into Gary, who gave me the nudge I needed to go and see the Red-flanked Bluetail at Horsey. So, after a poke around Hemsby (Comma the only thing of note) I joined the small crowd at Horsey and picked out the Bluetail amongst the scrub and pines. Smashing stuff!
I tried Sea Palling on the way home, hoping for Ring Ouzel, but instead saw 2 House Martin, my first of the year.

Classic couple of days. Plus, the Bat survey season starts today and I am looking forward to getting involved.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

On your marks.......Patch and Brecks.

Much like Gary Lineker, I've been everywhere lately. Not all of this 'everywhere' has been birding related sadly. I can however report that Lisbon is a super city, and it was here on the way back from beach football that I saw my first Bat of the year, probably a Pipistrelle sp. I have also been to Bath for a wedding, and the return journey through Berkshire threw up 15 Red Kites. An unidentified Butterfly near Thetford was a first of sorts.
Things are starting to pick up on the patch, finally. On Sunday 7th, Debs and I took the short walk from the pub to the hide in order to be back in time for dinner. I was thrilled to encounter 5 Brambling near the ferry, a sure sign that Winter was not yet prepared to loosen its grip. On the lagoon, 3 Shoveler had returned and a Little Egret stalked a smaller pool behind. Walking back, we stopped dead in our tracks as the sounds of a pair of courting Little Owl rang out. This pair have once again been pushed out of their preferred nesting hole by an Egyptian Goose, but have presumably re-located behind the gun club.
A return visit on Tuesday 9th finally felt like Spring, and I welcomed back 3/4 Chiffchaff. Last year, 3 had made it by the 29th of March! A Linnet over was NFY here, but other than that the presence of Redwing scattered around and the remaining Siskin told their own story. I finished by watching a male Marsh Harrier floated over the reedbed, spooking small numbers of Common Snipe.

Onto yesterday, and a trip to The Brecks. In genuinely warm sunshine, I sat and ate my lunch on a bench in the forest. A friendly walker alerted me to something strange hunting low over the water. I assumed Sand Martin, and was quite taken aback to see a Daubenten's Bat trawling for insects! Fantastic views were obtained, photos not so good. My first British Bat of the year, and in broad daylight.
Onto the birds, and the star was predictably a male Goshawk, a little distant to appreciate fully but nonetheless good to know they are there. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and a probable alighting Harris's Hawk completed the Raptor fest. Only 2 Chiffchaff were heard all day, and Redwing were the most numerous bird at one site! Other good bits included a singing Firecrest, Nuthatches seemingly abundant and a large flock of Chaffinches holding 2 Reed Buntings feeding on cover crop. A Golden Pheasant was heard at one site.

A final mention should go to the insects. The buzz and hum of The Brecks in Summer began today for me. There were many Orange Underwing Moths flying, and before my attention was stolen by the presumed escaped Harris's Hawk, I enjoyed the flutterings of my first real Butterfly of the year, a male Brimstone.

What next? Sunday looks good..........